By L. Dennis Burns, CAPP
According to the National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO), shared micro-mobility devices like bikes and scooters provided more than 84 million trips across the U.S. in 2018. While these numbers are impressive and contribute to reductions in urban area congestion and greenhouse gas emissions, I have been worried that the e-scooter industry in particular may be facing an uncertain future as it struggles with escalating accident rates and negative headlines.
I recently read an article entitled: “Micro-Mobility Contest Wants to Spark Data-Based Storytelling.” In this article, e-scooter operator Spin is leading a project in partnership with data firms StreetLight Data and Populus to make troves of micro-mobility data available to nonprofits advocating for safer streets.
According to the article, “Advocates working for improved bike, pedestrian, or other micro-mobility projects in cities across the U.S. could soon have access to new datasets, as they make their case to officials. Spin, an operator of e-scooters, is leading a pilot known as the Mobility Data for Safer Streets (MDSS) which asks nonprofits and other micro-mobility advocacy groups to apply for one of up to five slots to participate in the program. The five winning organizations will have access to a year’s worth of mobility data collected by StreetLight Data and Populus, two leading data collection and analysis firms often used by cities, transportation agencies, and others looking to use traffic and other data to shape transportation policy.”
I am encouraged by this move to better use available data in advocacy for safer streets as cities and states work to shape the public policy to both regulate the devices and reshape the public streetscape to accommodate them. It will be interesting to see what comes from this initiative.
L. Dennis Burns, CAPP, is regional vice president, senior practice builder, with Kimley-Horn.
In an effort to reign in shared e-scooters, France rolled out new rules Friday governing where, how, and by whom they can be used. Among them:
- E-scooters, hoverboards, and similar devices must be capped at 15 miles per hour.
- Only one rider is permitted aboard each device.
- No mobile phone use while riding, including snapping selfies and other photos.
- No scooters on sidewalks unless where specifically allowed, and they must operate at no more than walking speed in those cases.
- Operators must be at least 12 years old.
Paris plans to cull its allowed shared e-scooter companies from 12 to three in the coming months. Six deaths have been attributed to scooters in France, and lawmakers said they hope the new rules will help protect vulnerable populations in particular, including the handicapped and the elderly. Read the whole story here.
In cities and on campuses around the world, e-scooters seemed to have revolutionized short-distance personal transportation. Some days, it feels like they’re everywhere. And headlines trumpet the potential dangers for riders, pedestrians, and drivers as the micro-mobility vehicles grow in popularity. It all brings up an interesting question: If someone rents an e-scooter and has an accident, who’s liable? And do you need insurance for e-scooters if your operation offers them?
As with many things, it’s not a simple question. Part of it boils down to the regulations in each state, and part of it depends on who owns the scooter, who’s using the scooter, and whose fault an accident is. Insurance Business America takes a look at the liability of e-scooters and what users, owners, and contracted organizations need to know about insurance when the two-wheelers hit the streets.
“There’s still a lot of confusion around which insurance policies will pick up an E-scooter liability claim. If a rider has personal /private health insurance, they will likely get some coverage in the case of an accident. But if an E-scooter rider causes an injury to a pedestrian, damages a person’s property, or causes a road accident, coverage is much less clear–and often non-existent,” the article explains. Read the rest of it here.
By Nathan Donnell
We live and die by supply and demand in the parking and mobility industry. We are challenged by the public, stakeholders, and business owners to have enough parking while keeping the price at a reasonable level so as to not deter people from using the curb space. Obviously, I just defined supply and demand! I apologize for the elementary schooling but I have a method to my madness.
I spent a few days in three of the top 15 cities in the United States recently and because I’m a mobility geek, I couldn’t help but focus on the overall curb management in each city. The one thing all three cities had in common was that the supply and demand theory of micro-mobility vendors was way off. In one city, there were seven e-scooter vendors, each fighting for space on the curb. There wasn’t a street I walked down where I couldn’t find an e-scooter to ride. In fact, there was on an average of 20 scooters on each side of the street throughout each city, waiting for potential riders.
Cities and campuses have more control over micro-mobility vendors [vs. ride sharing as an example] by licensing each e-scooter and charging fees per ride; they also have access to data that should help make better policy decisions. Unfortunately, the supply outweighed the demand in all three cities to the point of cluttering the walkways and making it difficult to navigate without tripping hazards.
Why not charge each vendor a fee per scooter for the time it’s taking up curb space instead of a flat fee or per-ride fee? This may cause scooter vendors to be more selective in the number of scooters they drop off in hopes of getting more customers. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for first- and last-mile mobility solutions. But we must find the sweet spot of supply and demand or all we’ve done is create another problem in our cities and on our campuses.
Nathan Donnell is director, western U.S. and Canada sales, curbside management solutions with Conduent.
Electric scooters, powered skateboards, roller skates, and e-bikes are among the micromobility vehicles banned on the San Diego State University campus starting this fall. Citing safety, the university announced that the vehicles may be parked in eight designated parking areas, but won’t be allowed for use on the main campus anymore.
A recent study showed a 22 percent increase in safety incidents involving bicycles, scooters, and skateboards. Micromobility companies have set up a geofence around the campus that will first warn riders they’re entering a prohibited zone, and then slow their rides. Riders will be unable to use apps to end their journeys unless they’re in one of the designated parking areas. Manually powered bicycles and skateboards are exempt from the ban.
Read the whole story here.
By L. Dennis Burns, CAPP
Mobility Lab has referred to 2018 as the Year of the Curb. One big reason for this was the rapid and broad emergence of dockless e-scooters. In the January 8 issue of Mobility Lab Express, Director Paul Mackie reflects on everything we know about scooters to predict their staying power—and highlights important questions for future research.
“The exploding popularity of scooters is reason enough to research them. Dockless bike-share systems barely started to be viewed as legitimate transit options in the public’s perception when, all of a sudden, scooters arrived and, in many cities, completely replaced dockless bikes almost overnight,” he writes.
“It’s difficult to predict whether scooters are here to stay. But not for lack of trying by transportation journalists. Scooters are still so new that the lack of research on their popularity makes their staying power a guessing game. As far back as July, Populus released a report finding that most people like dockless e-scooters—including women, who have a slightly more positive perception of them than men. But, besides that report, there’s little academic research on why scooters have taken cities across the country by storm.”
The article goes on to review the early success of Arlington, Va.’s scooter pilot program and explores other topic areas such as:
- How many options are too many options?
- Are shared scooters priced for optimal success?
- Long-held perceptions need to change.
- Transit will be the big winner if cities do scooters right.
Read the full story here.
L. Dennis Burns, CAPP, is regional vice president of Kimley-Horn.
E-scooters pose an issue in many cities but perhaps none like New York, where they’re too slow for the street and too fast for pedestrian-packed sidewalks. The city is contemplating how to legalize the popular, often shared machines and there’s a new call for a scooter speed limit downtown.
While nothing official has come from the Department of Transportation, there are rumblings–and an all-out call from one attorney who frequently represents injured cyclists–to impose a 15 mph speed limit on e-scooters. The lawyer wants to go so far as to install speed governors on the machines to force them to keep it slow.
Read the whole story here.
By Nathan Donnell
I saw my first shared electric scooter in Santa Monica about a year ago. Since then, the scooters seem to be popping up in cities all over the country. They’re getting mixed reviews from the public. Most people I spoke to who’ve ridden say the scooters are fun and they would use them again. Others say they’re a safety issue and won’t last. The scooters don’t come with helmets, they don’t have turn signals, and they can’t be driven on the sidewalk, which means they need to share the road with automobiles. Most of the time there’s not a dedicated location to store the scooters.
Public officials are clamoring to get regulations put in place for this mode of transportation, which is like no other mode to date. A major city recently impounded more than 300 unpermitted scooters. The city used the scooter company’s app to locate the scooters–a brilliant use of the technology! Some cites have banned scooters altogether. Scooter companies are relying on public popularity to push municipalities into allowing them to be a part of their streets.
Generally, transportation officials across the country are welcoming the scooter craze in hopes it will ease congestion and add one more way to get around city streets, but the officials need to be the ones writing the rules. A few of the areas being looked at are not blocking right of ways, allowable sidewalk mobility, and the use of wheelchair-accessible ramps.
I’m looking forward to seeing if scooters will ease congestion or if they’ll cause more chaos on city streets.
Nathan Donnell is vice president of business development with Premium Parking.